Bewitched by a Mysterious Earl – Extended Epilogue

After a month-long honeymoon touring Europe, Thomas and Alice returned home to complete their final task at the behest of their truest friends, Owen and Nancy. In true noble fashion, they invited their closest friends to their countryside estate in order to warm their home and bring good fortune for the years ahead. 

Though Thomas would have much preferred to keep Alice to himself, he was pleased at the smile upon her face as she welcomed all their guests at his side. He allowed her to do most of the talking, welcoming her parents, Nancy and Owen, Mr Tulk and even Lady Denby. All of which offered their congratulations to the happy couple and commented on just how well they were looking.  

“Did you not take a parasol with you?” Alice’s mother asked, appearing quite concerned at her daughter’s golden glow. Thomas could only smile, pleased that his wife was not concerned with such mundane things as ensuring her skin remained porcelain white at all times.

“Of course, I did, Mama,” Alice assured her. “Though it was next to impossible to hide from the sun all the time we were away.” 

Her mother did not look best pleased with the answer, but she let it go relatively easy when Thomas pointed out, “Lady Skeffington, your daughter is married now and does not need to work so hard on her appearance. I quite like her just the way that she is.” 

He hooked his arm around Alice’s waist where they stood in the entryway to greet their guests and pulled her in close to him, offering her a kiss upon the side of her forehead. Alice responded with a grateful smile. 

“Yes, well, she does not have to give up on herself entirely,” Lady Skeffington pointed out. Nancy was the one to save them from the torment. 

Though they had already greeted her, she stepped up beside Lady Skeffington and said, “Lady Skeffington, I am sure that with the dreary English weather returning, Alice will soon be back to her porcelain-skinned self.” 

Both Thomas and Alice offered their friend a grateful expression when the younger viscountess began to lead the older further into the manor.

Glancing about the entryway, Thomas saw that all their guests had arrived. Clearing his throat, he raised his voice and announced, “As we are all here, I see no reason to delay dinner. Please, allow us to escort you all into the dining room.” 

This afforded them a grumble from both Lady Skeffington and Lady Denby, who would have likely preferred some time to rest and question Alice on their honeymoon before the dining began, but Thomas knew all too well how long the two older women could natter on for. They would be there until midnight before they managed to get to the dining table. 

“Mr Tulk, perhaps you might do an old widow the honour of escorting her into the dining room?” Lady Denby suggested after her moment of grumbling. A look of surprise flashed through Philip’s gaze, but he quickly became a gentleman once more and bowed to the much older woman, offering her his arm to help her walk into the dining room. 

Thomas happily offered his own arm to his wife and inclined his head to the butler to open up the dining room doors. A maid quickly scuttled off at a nod from the butler, clearly headed to tell the cook that dinner would need to be served soon. He was so used to getting all social events over and done with, that he found himself going about the motions, yet the moment he sat at the head of the dining table with Alice at his right hand, he realised that he would have happily sat there all evening surrounded by his nearest and dearest. 

Would my parents have approved? he asked himself. Looking at Alice, he felt certain that they would have. Though she had feared marriage, it appeared to agree with her. She was more radiant than ever, bubbly and quite chatty, clearly pleased to be amongst friends again. 

Yet she looked just as surprised when, not ten minutes into dinner, Nancy leaned forward from where she sat beside Alice and asked them both, “Have you heard the latest news?” 

Thomas and Alice glanced at each. Their shared look suggested the answer and Nancy did not wait for them to reply before she continued, “Mr Gouldsmith and Miss Hyatt have been courting.” 

“Not just that,” Lady Skeffington put in. It seemed that even now that her daughter was married, she and Nancy were still the greatest of teams, “They have announced their engagement this week!” 

Thomas glanced at his wife again, seeing that she looked just as surprised as he felt. For the first time he felt absolutely no jealousy at the mention of Gouldsmith, only utter surprise. 

“I cannot say it is entirely surprising,” Alice commented. She picked up her wine glass and took a swig before finishing, “Mr Gouldsmith has always been obsessed with getting people to like him and doing the right thing and I believe both he and Miss Hyatt have always been focused on gaining more social standing. The match is quite an advantageous one for both parties.” 

Thinking on it, Thomas knew that his wife was right. And he could not deny that it was a relief to know that both Mr Gouldsmith and Miss Hyatt had both finally found what they were looking for. 

“Mr Gouldsmith is a well-connected man,” Thomas commented, “And Miss Hyatt is a social butterfly. I can imagine their match being a happy one.” 

At least, that was what he hoped. Though he loathed the man, Thomas was kind enough to feel some guilt at getting between Mr Gouldsmith and Alice. Though he could not say that he regretted it. 

He reached out and took hold of Alice’s hand on top of the table. Squeezing her fingers affectionately, he said, “We can only hope that they shall be as happy as we are.” 

“Yes, I am sure we both wish them the best,” Alice responded. The love and affection that brimmed in her eyes was almost enough to bring at tear to Thomas’. 

Quickly, clearing his throat, he gripped his wine glass with his free hand and raised it in a toast, “To the happy couples!” 

“To the happy couples!” everyone else responded. 

“I apologise, Mr Tulk, I do hope you do not feel left out of this toast,” he commented when he saw the mischievous expression that Philip offered him. 

Do not apologise, Lord Warrington. I am quite content. If the right lady comes along then I will be willing to join all of you happy couples, but I am in no rush,” Mr Tulk assured him. 

“If I were ten years younger, I might well have been the right woman for you,” Lady Denby joked, winking at Mr Tulk across the table. Being the crazy old widow that she was, everybody laughed merrily along with her. Even Mr Tulk went along with it, leaving everybody in fine, high moods. 

***

It was after dinner that Alice finally found a moment to pin down her closest friend in all the world. It had been so long since they had seen each other, their only interaction having been almost daily letters during her honeymoon, that Alice grabbed her at the earliest convenience and pulled her into the library. Thomas offered them both a curious glance as they did so but at his wife’s asking, he began to lead all the other guests into the parlour for a few songs on the piano forte and one last drink before retiring to their rooms for the night. 

“We shall join you presently,” Alice promised her husband before urging Nancy into the dimly lit library. Only the fireplace roaring at the far end of the room offered any light and it cast deep shadows against Nancy’s curious expression. 

“Is everything all right, Alice?” Nancy asked, looking slightly concerned at having been dragged away from the rest of the guests. “Is there something you wish to tell me?” 

There was an almost hopeful glint in Nancy’s eye. Alice wished she could offer the news she was expecting to hear but unfortunately, she and Thomas had yet to conceive, and Alice’s motives were much more innocent. She did not speak as she threw her arms around Nancy’s neck and squeezed her tightly. 

When she stepped forward, she announced, “Oh, Nancy, I have to thank you!” 

“Whatever for?” Nancy asked, looking quite perplexed. Alice chuckled at her friend’s reaction. The woman was usually so accepting of praise. 

“I must thank you for throwing that matchmaking week,” Alice insisted. She gripped her friend’s hands tightly, hoping that she would feel all the true happiness and joy that now pulsed through her veins, her very life blood and the energy that kept her marriage a pleasant one. “You have given me the greatest gift of all.” 

Nancy blushed at that and feigned embarrassment. “Oh, stop it. I barely did a thing.” 

Alice tapped her friend’s forearm and shook her head. “If not for you I might have been too stubborn to find what was right in front of me all along.” 

“Well, I don’t like to praise myself too highly, but you are right,” Nancy smirked, glowing with pride. The two women chuckled together just as they might have done when they were girls and Alice smiled affectionately at her friend. This was one of the sensations she had feared losing to marriage, her closeness with her friend, and yet somehow marriage seemed to only have strengthened that. 

As if she sensed Alice’s feelings, Nancy pointed out, “You know, Thomas and Owen are not brothers but they may as well be. We shall always be connected now.” 

Alice’s heart soared at her friend’s words, knowing without a doubt that she was right. During their honeymoon she and Thomas had talked about their friends so many times, it was clear that the friends shared such a bond that neither would ever be willing to give up. And Alice had quickly come to realise that all her fears had been stupid. 

“I just have one question for you, Alice.” She squeezed Alice’s hands and looked deep into her eyes to ask, “Are you still concerned with freedom?” 

Nancy’s brilliant smile to Alice that she already knew the answer to that question, but Alice decided to answer anyway. “I feel freer than I ever have done in my life.” 

Nancy nodded knowingly and Alice scoffed, tapping her friend with affection at her constant need to be right. “Between you and Thomas, I shall never win,” she joked and the two laughed together again. 

“You and Owen certainly have your work cut out for us,” Nancy observed, and Alice was just nodding her agreement when there was a soft rapping of knuckles on the door. 

Alice half-expected it to be her husband come to drag her out to the rest of the party for having taken too long, desperate to be at her side once more as she so often felt with him. Yet she was surprised when the door opened to reveal Mr Tulk. 

“Please, forgive the interruption, ladies,” Mr Tulk announced, offering them a bow before entering the room, “But I fear that your husbands may well be getting out of hand in there.” 

Even before Alice could ask what he meant, she heard the great caterwauling of singing voices and knew well that Thomas and Owen had begun to offer their guests more entertainment than anyone’s ears were able to handle. 

Alice and Nancy glanced at each other and rolled their eyes. Hooking their arms together, they marched like a pair of sergeants to order their soldiers down, chuckling happily with each other as they did. 

Mr Tulk fell into step at Alice’s side and told her as they walked, “I must say again how pleased I am for you both, Alice.” 

Stopping dead in her tracks, Alice said to Nancy, “Will you go ahead and make sure that our husbands do not get too overexcited?” 

She was all too aware of just how energetic her husband and Nancy’s could get when they were around each other. She had seen their merriment several times during the week at Kendall Hall. 

“Yes, of course,” Nancy nodded and offered Mr Tulk a curtsey. “Cousin.” 

Nancy then left them alone save for the footman who stood beside the front door. The moment she disappeared inside, Alice turned to Mr Tulk and said, “I do hope there are no hard feelings between us, Mr Tulk.” 

She remembered all too well how angry and upset Mr Gouldsmith had been at her engagement to Thomas. She could only hope that her marriage would not get between her and a man she had always seen as a close friend. 

Mr Tulk looked quite confused at the sentiment and he gripped hold of Alice’s hands, kissing both her knuckles, and squeezing her fingers as he assured her, “Alice, there could never be any bad feeling between us. For all my flirtatiousness, we have always been friends. Though I would have been pleased to enter a marriage of friendship, I am glad that you found so much more.” 

It was more of a relief than Alice could ever have realised to hear him say such a thing and she felt her shoulders drooping with the sensation. 

“You have no idea how much that means to me, Philip,” she said, squeezing his fingers in a friendly manner. 

“I think we ought to get to the parlour before your husband and my dear cousin come in search of us,” Mr Tulk announced but it was not either of them who came from the direction of the parlour the moment they turned to leave. 

Instead, it was Lady Denby. Though she walked with a cane which Thomas assured Alice was more of a reason to complain about being elderly than her actual need for one, Lady Denby walked with confident purpose. She smiled warmly to the two of them as she approached and offered Mr Tulk a greeting before turning to Alice and asking, “I rather hoped I might have a private moment with you. I had hoped for one at the wedding, but it was so busy, and I am not one for getting in the way.” 

Having heard all about her from her husband, Alice had to stifle laughter at the comment. 

“Will you give us a moment, Philip?” Alice asked her best friend’s cousin, and the man offered her a happy smile before leaving them. 

Lady Denby glanced over her shoulder to be sure that he was gone before she turned back to Alice and grabbed hold of her hand. For a moment Alice feared she was about to be reprimanded, forgetting for an instant that she was a countess and much higher standing than the widow who was a baron’s widow. But then Lady Denby smiled so warmly that it caused Alice’s heart to dance. 

“I must thank you, child,” Lady Denby insisted, squeezing Alice’s fingers, and shaking her hand as if to ensure she was aware of just how grateful she truly was. 

“Whatever for?” Alice asked. She could not possibly imagine what Lady Denby had to thank her for. After all, this was only the second time they had met, the first being her marriage to the widow’s nephew. 

“I have never seen my Thomas so happy!” Lady Denby announced, and she looked fit to bursting with happiness. Alice’s heart swelled at the sight, and she smiled from ear to ear, mirroring the older woman’s expression. “It is all down to you, Alice. I am certain of it.” 

“Well, I do like to think that Thomas had a hand in it too,” Alice responded in a friendly manner, “I cannot take all of the credit for our relationship.” 

“Oh, but you must!” Lady Denby insisted, “That boy has been as stubborn as his father from the moment he was born. I knew that you were a rare gem the moment he mentioned you to me in one of his letters.” 

Alice’s heart swelled further, and she felt tears pricking the corners of her eyes when Lady Denby added, “I am certain that this is going to be a most blessed union. I can feel it and I can assure you that I am never wrong on such matters.” 

Are you sure that you are Thomas’ aunt and not Nancy’s? Alice thought, stifling laughter as she imagined how alike the old widow and her friend were. She was certain that this was how Nancy would become when she was older, without or without Owen to guide her. 

“Aunt, I was wondering who was keeping my beautiful wife from me,” Thomas’ voice took them both by surprise and they looked around just in time to see him exiting the parlour. He crossed the entryway to stand beside Alice and placed his hand on the small of her back. “I do hope you are not upsetting her.” 

Lady Denby looked about to offer a harsh rebuke, but Alice laid a hand upon her husband’s chest and kissed his cheek before announcing, “I was just telling your aunt that you have made me the happiest woman in the world and that I am most pleased to be your wife.” 

That seemed to placate both parties and both Thomas and Lady Denby smiled warmly at her words. 

“You can rest easy now, aunt,” Thomas assured her, pulling Alice close to his side and kissed her cheek in return, “I have found the partner you always assured me I would find.” 

And I have found the soulmate I never even dreamt of finding. Alice knew in that moment that she had finally made one right decision in her life. 

THE END


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11 thoughts on “Bewitched by a Mysterious Earl – Extended Epilogue”

  1. A wonderfully captivating story, with Thomas and Alice treading a bumpy path to finally recognise their attraction for each other, and submit to their desires. The extended epilogue rounds of their stories brilliantly as well as that of some of the other characters. Marvellous job, I can’t wait to see what you bring us next.

  2. A wonderful story and Alice and Thomas make a good couple The extended epilogue lets everyone know about all the characters lives

  3. A wonderful story, the extended epilogue touching on the other characters lives rounds off the story so one is not left wondering.

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story. It was a refreshing turn to have all of the men gathered for a weeklong house party. It afforded some original ideas to the normal storyline that kept the story interesting and fun. Thank you for this original and entertaining book.

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